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  • Writer's pictureSara White

HMRC helplines struggle to manage call load

Updated: Mar 21

More than a third of calls to HMRC remain unanswered as taxpayers cannot get through to an adviser

Sara White, Editor, Accountancy Daily

The latest HMRC performance report for June shows a slight improvement on May’s figures when only 60% of calls were answered. In June 63.4% of callers managed to speak to an HMRC official, compared to 73% of successful calls a year ago. In addition, 70% of callers waited more than 10 minutes.

The number of calls shot up in June reaching 10 million calls in the month, up from 6.8m in May but HMRC improved the average waiting time to 21 minutes 43 seconds, down from 23:25. This compared to 15:15 a year ago, marking a significant deterioration in service levels.

The number of adviser attempts handled rose to 4.38 million, up from 2.87m the previous month.

Nearly a third of calls were handled by HMRC’s automated system, with 3.02m calls diverted from call handlers in June. This was up by a third from 2.04m in May.

The number of complaints also shot up to 23,941, nearly 50% more than the previous month. This reflects ongoing problems with HMRC service levels.

Acknowledging the service problems, the HMRC report stated: ‘While increasing numbers of customers are using our digital channels to resolve their tax affairs, we recognise that some still need direct support through services like phone or post. Our customer service levels in these areas haven’t been where we want them to be. We recognise the real difficulties this has caused some customers and agents.’

HMRC pointed to increasingly complex enquiries from taxpayers, particularly as more people are dragged into higher rate tax brackets, while budget cuts have also put pressure on available resources.

This has led to the summer closure of the self assessment helpline which is a trial and is likely to lead to more helpline closures in the next few months as HMRC tries to push taxpayers towards using its online services.

‘In response to these challenges, we’re driving forward vital changes to make us more efficient in serving customers and managing their compliance,’ HMRC said.

‘The key to doing this is through quicker and easier online services. In 2022 to 2023, we had over 38 million phone contacts and over 16 million items of correspondence where customers require a response – but we know that around two thirds of all self assessment calls, for example, could be resolved by customers themselves online.’

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